When Slow and Steady will not do
How crash dieting can work for you and four of the most powerful ways to lose weight fast in a more controlled manner
Fitness column by Matt Kay
A few weeks ago there was a show on the BBC about crash dieting. I did not watch it but many of our clients did and they were surprised to learn that crash diets do in fact work without being harmful to your health.
I understand why clients might be surprised at this but equally it is yet another indication as to how the entire nation is misinformed about the rights and wrongs of nutrition and more specifically nutrition for fat loss. We have been taught over the years that your approach to weight loss should be balanced, slow and steady, but sometimes slow and steady will not do.
Before I dive into defining four of the most powerful ways to lose body fat fast, let’s first give this article some context.
What is a crash diet?
A ‘Crash Diet’ is not a defined term but for the purpose of this article when I refer to a crash diet I am referring to a diet that is lower than the calories needed for your BMR (Base Metabolic Rate – the amount of calories you need for your body to function).
Your BMR is generally half to two thirds of what is referred to as your TDE (Total Daily Expenditure – the total amount of calories you need each day to operate as a fully functioning and cohesive human being undergoing day to day tasks such as working, exercising, moving around in your normal day). If you eat your TDE calories every day you will feel good, energised, satisfied and your body shape will stay exactly the same.
When we put together nutrition programmes for clients that want to lose fat, we work from the TDE figure. A good rule of thumb is to drop your daily calories 10 – 20 per cent below that of your TDE and by doing so you will achieve slow, steady weight loss, whilst maintaining lean muscle tissue (as long as your protein consumption is optimal) and this is what we always recommend.
Do crash diets work?
Will a crash diet make you lose weight? Yes
Will a crash diet make you thinner? Yes
Will a crash diet negatively affect your health? If done correctly and for a short period of time (three weeks max) No
Would I recommend a crash diet? No, but sometimes people have a certain body composition and/or health goal(s) that do not have time to wait for the slow, steady approach.
Many will disagree with me but over the 15 years I have been helping people achieve goals through nutrition, I believe there is a place for extreme calorie deficits to elicit fast results in very specific circumstances.
The 4 most powerful ways to lose weight fat
Having said all that I would much prefer clients to undergo nutrition programmes that achieved fat loss over a longer period of time. For most folks I am not talking years, I am really just talking a few months – 90 days for most people is long enough to see body composition changes.
- Burn More Calories Than You Eat
There is an indisputable law when it comes to fat loss called thermogenics. Thermogenics means to produce energy through heat, which gives rise to your BMR as discussed earlier in this article. In a nutshell the law dictates that if you expend more energy than you consume, you will lose weight. To identify your specific TDE seek out a professional to help, before being able to calculate a 10 – 20 per cent TDE deficit. I emphasize that this is just the first step in what can be a complex journey but this is the fundamental step. If however, you have been eating in a deficit for some time now and your progress has stagnated you could be experiencing something called metabolic adaptation – your body has adapted to the calorie deficit. If you are experiencing this seek out a professional who can help you break through.
- Eat Your Proteins
When it comes to fat loss and especially fat loss while holding onto your muscle tissue, protein consumption is crucial. If you do not consume the correct levels of protein or undergo strength training to elicit lean muscle tissue development, you will not achieve a desirable body shape as you lose weight. Just google ‘skinny fat’ and you will understand what I am talking about. As a general rule, aim to consume two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, I weigh 90kg so my daily protein target is 180g.
- Get Your Fats Right
Do not be scared of fats. They are very important for many functions in the body including helping you look great. Aim to consume 30 per cent of your total daily calories as fat with one fat exception – trans fats. Trans fats or trans-unsaturated fatty acids are commonly found in vegetable fats for use in margarine, processed foods, baked foods and fast food. They have no place in the human diet. Much of the fats you consume will be consumed naturally from your proteins, however good sources include nuts, seeds, fish, unheated olive oil.
- Carb’s Are Cool
Carbohydrates have been given such a bad reputation over the last 20 years but as it turns out they are not so bad after all. Just as long as you do not eat too many off them. Once you have consumed your proteins for the day and got your fats at 30 per cent of your total daily calorie intake the rest of your calories should come from carbohydrates. I personally like to avoid bread for the simple reason I find it impossible to eat in moderation. I go for vegetable sources first, oats second and then starchy sources like sweet potatoes, new potatoes, rice and pasta third.
In summary there are certain rules that never change when it comes to eating for body composition. However, human beings are complex. Mentally, emotionally and physically, everyone has different goals, with different time frames that could justify crash dieting. And with that said, crash dieting can work, can achieve a short term goal and when done correctly will not have a negative effect on your health. However crash dieting should never be your ‘go to’ solution of choice. Crash dieting over prolonged periods of time will have a negative effect on all types of systems and functions in your body which is why I would never recommend it if you do not need to.